ASK THE RELIGION EXPERT

Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.



Documents in the Vatican's files on Mother Teresa indicate she began to struggle with her belief in God at about the same time she began to care for the the downtrodden in Calcutta. A new book by Mother Teresa's postulator reveals many letters she reportedly wanted to destroy. "Lord, my God, you have thrown (me) away as unwanted -- unloved," she wrote. "I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer, no, no one." How do you react to this crisis of faith experienced by Mother Teresa?

Why did Teresa's communication with Jesus, which was so vivid and nourishing, come to an abrupt halt? Many writers see here an identification with Christ's extended suffering on the Cross, undertaken to redeem humanity. This is a key aspect of Catholic spirituality. Mother Teresa told her nuns that physical poverty ensured empathy in giving themselves to the suffering poor and established a stronger bond with Christ's redemptive agony. She wrote in 1951 that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus' life that she was interested in sharing: "I want to ... drink only from His chalice of pain." And so she did, although by all indications not in a way she had expected.

John of the Cross describes what she experienced in his writings. John sees the goal of the spiritual life is union with God through love. As the soul ascends and nears the summit of the ascent to the very heights of that union, a passive night of the spirit occurs, which is initiated by God in the depths of the soul. He called this the Dark Night of the Soul and wrote that it is often a prolonged suffering in which the soul feels completely abandoned by God. This night, he continued, is a participation in the death of Christ and his descent into hell, which eventually ends in being raised with Him into perfect happiness.

To really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Now we learn that Mother Teresa wasn't 'feeling' Christ's love. She could have simply shut down. Instead, she was up at 4:30 and working all day long for Jesus. She wrote, 'His happiness is all I want'. Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, is responsible for petitioning for her sainthood. He says "this is powerful evidence". I couldn't agree more!